It shouldn’t surprise Lowcountry residents that they are coming down with cases of strep throat or even the flu during the summer.
While there isn’t an outbreak, Charleston physicians emphasized that these viruses and infections don’t disappear when summer weather rolls around.
“I think people are genuinely surprised when they get sick in the summer," said Dr. Amy Forren, a family physician connected with Roper St. Francis Healthcare.
Previous studies published by the Annals of Family Medicine found that physical examinations, diabetes and back pain were some of the most common reasons patients found themselves visiting a doctor during the summer.
And nationally, urgent care centers have also pointed out that heat-related illnesses and injuries are common reasons why people consult with medical professionals in the summer.
Forren agrees. Most of her patients have come in for wellness visits, injuries, heat-related concerns and insect bites this summer. In winter, she acknowledged more cases of viruses and infections are seen.
“Each season of the year kind of has it’s own personality," she said.
Dr. Kay Durst, a family physician with Durst Family Medicine, also has seen more injuries than illnesses this summer. But like Forren, she said that in the summer people shouldn't let their guards down with illnesses.
“There definitely is a misconception that you can’t get a flu infection in the summer," Durst said.
With Charleston being a big tourist area, a lot of people do find themselves frequenting urgent-care centers for illnesses, said Dr. Jeff Anderson, a physician with Health First Urgent Care.
They've seen sporadic cases of the influenza virus throughout the summer, he said. And with strep throat, he said the number of cases never really died down with the start of the summer. They often see families coming in, all dealing with same virus or infection.
“You never expect to see the flu in July, but you see it," he said.
Forren and Durst have both seen cases of the flu, strep and even mono this summer.
Step throat, or streptococcal pharyngitis, is a highly contagious bacterial infection that often brings on a sore throat and fever, according to the Mayo Clinic.
The infection is often spread when people come in contact with the mucus of an infected person through coughing or sneezing. It also can be spread by sharing food or touching something with the bacteria on it.
Anyone can get it, but the infection is mainly common in children, the Mayo Clinic says.
“Things like strep throat really don’t have a season," said Dr. Ian Kane, who works in pediatric emergency medicine at the Medical University of South Carolina.
He said it all comes down to exposure. The reason people often see more cases of strep throat or colds among kids in the winter is because children are clustered together for extended periods of time in school. It really has nothing to do with temperature, he said.
In summer, when most kids aren't in school, there is less chance of disease spreading. But Anderson emphasized that during the summer, kids can be exposed to illness sporadically.
He said his practice has had kids come in all summer who get sick after going to a party or camp. In a lot of cases, he said, parents come in with a sick child asking if it's still OK for them to send their child to an upcoming event.
Durst said she sees similar cases, especially among young adults who are camp counselors.
“That’s the biggest thing I see," she said. “I’m like, 'You can’t go to camp.'”
They also pointed out that people often look at their recovery differently in summer than in winter. Because it's not cold outside, Durst said people often think they can still travel and be outside even while they are sick.
“If you have a fever, then you’re contagious," she said.
Local experts advised that people in warmer climates like Charleston's should maintain the same health habits they do in winter. Habits such as hand-washing and covering your mouth when coughing or sneezing should be constant habits, regardless of the season.
Forren, who has two kids of her own, said this is important for children who often fall into poor habits without guidance, especially when it comes to hand-washing.
“Because kids get busy and they don’t want to do it," she said.